If you were asked your brand purpose, you may say “profits.” Making money is important for sustaining a business, but that’s not a brand’s purpose.
Brand purpose is what creates an emotional connection between your brand and your audience – the reason you have your brand at all. Your business exists to solve a problem and improve the lives of your customers. It makes a difference in their lives, and that’s your purpose.
Emphasizing a brand’s purpose and building a connection with your customers defines everything your brand does in the future, including the company culture and the marketing messaging.
Understanding Brand Purpose
Brand communication used to be one way: business to customers. Brands dictated the terms of the relationship, and the consumer didn’t have much of an impact. Basically, if you don’t like it, leave it.
Now, the voice of the consumer matters. With the shift to online, consumers had an outlet to voice their opinions and impact change, even if it was just by sheer numbers.
Customers voiced opinions, and brands had to pay attention. If the customers weren't happy, brands had to consider how they can shift them back in their favor.
Why Purpose Matters to Customers
As humans, we’re driven by purpose and meaning.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, all of us have physiological needs, safety needs, the need for love and belonging, the need for esteem, and finally, self-actualization, which is the desire to be all you can be – your purpose.
Consumers are conscious of purpose and place, seeking relationships with brands that align with beliefs and values. This also extends to their relationship with brands.
Often, we surround ourselves with people who share our values or ideals. In an effort to connect with that, brands are becoming more “human” with distinct personality, tone, and ideals.
Why Do Brands Need Purpose?
Consumers have more interactions with brands because of the internet and social media. They can voice opinions about the decisions brands make, often shifting their practices to address the complaints of their customer base.
Brands are no longer “safe” to continue as they wish – consumers have power through their voices and numbers. Strategic brands began to consider what their customers wanted and how they can be proactive in addressing their needs, whether related to a product or social concerns.
Ultimately, this started the trend of purpose-driven brands.
For example,during the holidays we noticed that our content creation studio page would experience a spike in online traffic right before the holiday season. Our team immediately began strategizing on how to capitalize on this type of increased traffic.
How to Inspire and Connect with Brand Purpose
Another monumental shift came from a viral Ted Talk from Simon Sinek in 2009. Now infamous, the “Start with Why” talk and the concept of the Golden Circle resonated with business leaders.
That talk is still among the most-watched Ted Talks in history, and Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” book is profoundly influential in branding.
He considers the “why” in branding and the reasons why some brands inspire while others fall short. Apple is an oft-used example, because in his words, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
And this is exactly where you should start with your brand purpose.
The Golden Circle outlines how brands communicate:
- All brands know what they do, as in what products or services they provide.
- Some brands know how they conduct business and what sets them apart from competitors.
- Few brands know why they do what they do. It’s not about money, but the purpose or belief that led to the creation of the business.
No matter the industry or size, inspiring brands understand the “why” in what they do, and they use it to guide their communications.
Here are some questions to ask:
- What led you to start your business?
- What are your unique strengths?
- What do you want to be known for?
- What problems are you trying to solve?
- What change do you want to see in the world?
- What do you want to change about your industry?
- What changes do your customers want to see?
- Aside from making money, why does your brand exist?
How to Write a Brand Purpose Statement
Having an abstract idea of purpose is different than condensing the idea into a clear, concise, and impactful statement.
Consider your answers to the questions above. Are there any common themes or patterns?
Simplify them into one straightforward sentence:
Our purpose is to [contribution] so that [impact]
You may not get it right the first time, but it gets the process started so you can brainstorm and come up with your unique brand purpose.
Here are some examples of exceptional brand purposes:
Example #1 - Warby Parker
Warby Parker is one of the most successful startups. Beginning in 2010, Warby Parker hit the scene with a simple, straightforward purpose:
To make eyewear more affordable
Its full purpose statement is:
To offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses
These words are powerful, but Warby Parker succeeded by following through. One of the founders ran an eyewear non-profit previously, and that’s why he wanted to create affordable eyewear. The company also has charitable programs, including the “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program.
Example #2 - Crayola
Crayola is another excellent example of a strong brand purpose, which is:
To unleash the originality in every child
This brand purpose is inspiring to both consumers and employees. It makes the impossible seem attainable and the potential seem limitless.
In addition, this purpose not only inspires customers to push their creativity and originality, but it drives future innovation within the company itself.
Example #3 - Dove
Dove was an outlier in beauty brands for its positive, authentic approach to women’s beauty. The purpose statement is:
To help women everywhere develop a positive relationship with the way they look, helping them realize their full potential
This statement is backed by Dove’s communications and campaigns, including the 2004 Campaign for Real Beauty, a revolutionary approach that included women of all colors, sizes, and shapes as the “real” standards of beauty.
Discover Your Purpose
Defining brand purpose is the first step of building an effective, sustainable brand strategy. While you can succeed without one, you could get lost in the sea of competition or lose your brand’s direction along the way. Once you understand the true goal and impact your brand can have, it will guide your decisions, customer relationships, and company culture well into the future.
Kyle Johnston is a Founding Partner and President of award winning brand, content creation & creative agency, Gigasavvy. After spending the last 20+ years in Southern California, Kyle recently moved his family to Boise, ID where he continues to lead the agency through their next phase of growth.